NEW YORK, NOV. 2 -- Polish leaders camped out this week at New York's swank Waldorf-Astoria Hotel trying to woo U.S. investors, but the ambience of Harry's Bar and the Starlight Room didn't dim the skepticism of many American participants.
The three-day seminar, which concluded today and drew roughly 100 representatives from a range of U.S. businesses, was designed to sell the virtues of Poland's recent cold-turkey plunge into a Western-style system of free enterprise.
But old Communist ways die hard, as some conference attendees noted. The Polish government has yet to turn a single large state-owned enterprise into a private company. At the same time, American executives remain wary over the possibility of instability, which could sabotage any investment.
U.S. businesses "think that the Polish side is not sufficiently prepared to handle the potential of American investment," Zdzislaw Najder, the chief political adviser to the Solidarity trade union, said in an interview after giving a speech designed to assuage the American concerns. "There's been too much in the American press about the danger of political strife."
The conference seemed to raise questions about just how far corporate America will go to put its money where its attitude is. While companies ranging from US West to American Airlines paid $995 to send a representative, most did not send any high-level executives, a sign of only modest interest.
Saying in the opening address Wednesday that "it takes two to tango," Harvard professor Jeffrey Sachs called a big infusion of Western capital into Poland a crucial economic catalyst.